There’s nothing like a whitewater rafting or jet boat trip to leave you breathless, soaked to the bone and pumped full of adrenaline. Then there’s the kind of boat trip that takes it down a notch — from wild to mild, but every bit just as sensational.
Here are a handful of guided boat trips to check out this summer that will let you delight in Oregon’s pristine waterways at a soothing pace, perhaps with a frosty beverage in hand.
Wherever you go, here are some simple steps you can take to keep your whole crew safe in the water:
- Wear a properly fitted life jacket — it’s required for ages 13 and under and highly recommended for others regardless of age. It may just save your life if you end up splashing into the water, especially in cold water temperatures. Many lake areas have free life jacket kiosks if you don’t have your own.
- Once you’re on the water, beware of winds or boats creating large waves or swells.
- Ask an expert about the right type of leash to purchase for your board, since the wrong type can be fatal if you fall and get tangled. Quick-release leashes attach to your life jacket and board, and are highly recommended when paddling on any moving water with obstructions like fallen trees from riverbanks.
- Stay close to shore and avoid fast-moving waters if you’re newer.
- Finally, stand-up paddlers are required to purchase and have on hand their Waterway Access Permit, which can be purchased online.
Guided Floats on the Rogue River
The Paddled Pub, a tour company based in Merlin, takes you 7 miles down the scenic Rogue River on a 20-foot custom raft designed for relaxation. Hop in, kick back and soak up the views while a guide steers from the back. Before boarding, the trip meets at Weekend Beer Co. in Grants Pass, where each guest gets three 16-ounce beers to-go for the float. Try the aptly named Slow Your Row kölsch-style ale, or maybe an American wheat. If beer’s not your thing, you can opt for cider or wine in smaller amounts, but sorry, no BYOB-in’. Light snacks provided.
For something more immersive, Indigo Creek Outfitters runs a once-a-year “Raft and Wine” trip in July on the Rogue that includes three days on the river and two nights at wilderness lodges along the way. Each evening, guides take you through the tasting notes for tempranillos and chardonnays from The Urban Cork and Pallet Wine Company.
Paddle With Urban Views in Portland
They say it’s the most “Portland” thing you can do: Sip a craft beer while powering your own paddleboat along the Willamette River. The BrewBarge — brought to you by the same people behind Portland’s popular BrewCycle tour — is the epitome of active relaxation. You’ll get to enjoy your beverages at the high bar with 14 of your closest friends while keeping your feet busy, pedaling the boat at a speed of 5 miles per hour. (The boat does have a motor to help with docking, and a new, bigger 26-person barge should be in service in 2023.) You get 90 minutes to go as hard or as easy as you like, but expect to cruise under some of the city’s majestic downtown bridges. Keep it classy with a sunset tour with wine and cheese, or go more casual with beer and tunes. Either way, there is plenty of opportunity to take a rest and soak up the spectacular urban landscape all around.
Custom Wine Tasting on the Willamette
Captain Scott Heesacker of NW Jet Boat Charter has spent the better part of his life navigating boats around Oregon rivers, and as such, he knows the shallow, upper reaches of the Willamette River better than many. Join him for a four-hour jet-boat tour upriver from Newberg to Wheatland Ferry on a private, custom wine-tasting adventure that cruises past the farmlands in the heart of Oregon wine country. He’ll pair food with your favorite styles of wine before the trip, then drop anchor near a deserted island midstream, allowing your party of up to six people to enjoy a picnic in nature’s best tasting room.
Canoes and Brews in Central Oregon
Maybe a canoe is more your style? Wanderlust Tours’ Brews & Views Canoe Tour lets you explore some of the best spots on the Cascade Lakes, some of which are accessible only by paddling into the fingers, coves, bays and wetlands. Spend two hours paddling around on Paulina, Elk, Sparks or Hosmer lakes, and stop for a refreshing dip if that’s your calling. Your naturalist guide will bring a cooler of craft beers with offerings from four Central Oregon breweries like Boneyard Beer and Worthy Brewing, each a stop along the ever-expanding Bend Ale Trail.